Dear Pastors and Church Leaders, You Matter Too

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Pastors and other church leaders, here’s an announcement.

You cannot do it all.

You do not read minds, know the will of God for each person, comprehend all marriages or families, or see through walls.  You do not understand all things. So, give yourself a break. 

You are only human

Some people treat you like you are superhuman. Don’t believe that lie or accede to every demand. Hoops they want you to jump through will cost your peace of mind, and drive a wedge in your family. Don’t respond to every need. 

Some will treat you as less than human.  Don’t believe that lie, either. Grant yourself permission to make mistakes and be forgiven. Allow God to redeem the day without you begging for mercy from those who would dehumanize you.

You have a teacher

Take a breath. Take a break. Sit with God, and listen. Put down study for a while; it will not be forever. Let the Holy Spirit wash you with grace.  We never learn much from God when our focus is on stress, deadlines, pleasing people, holding on to our jobs, satisfying the board, anxiety, or panic.  

Focus on him. He sees you.

Practice what you preach about trusting God when times are tough. Read about his provision, sovereignty, mercy, and grace. This is the God who promises to lead you down the best path for your life. Listen.

Take care 

I was going to write about how much the church-at-large needs to change in its general approach to mental illness and abuse. You may not want to hear that now. Maybe you need to know that you matter too.

Leaders of churches also have trauma, abuse, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health challenges. You need self-care, and perhaps professional care as much as anyone.  Do not be afraid to pursue what is best for you.  You matter too. 

Dear Pastor, you are called to a high purpose, not as God’s right-hand assistant.  Church leaders, you are servants, not gods.  I know you know this intellectually and in your spirit, but is your mind at rest?  You matter too.

Take care of yourself first. That includes vacations, time-outs, and days off.  Nurture family  relationships.  If this seems impossible, maybe you have forgotten that you matter too. 

So very much.

 Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 27:13, 14

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

 

******COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

 

Speak Life. 12 Anti-platitude Responses to Abuse Victims

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Kind, gentle, helpful statements are available for our use anytime we want.  We are not stuck without options to familiar ready-made responses to abuse. 

For many, it is easy to throw out euphemisms for “I do not actually care about your problem.”  However, when people who want to help do not know what to say, it is time for alternatives.

Speak life

Think of it this way. In your painful moments, you want those in positions to help to do just that.  Can you imagine an EMT discussing menu options while you are having a heart attack?  How would you describe a pilot who leads his panicked passengers in meditation instead of righting the plane?

In the same way, we have the choice of saying and doing what will actually make a positive difference in the moment.  Today, as we revisit those dead platitudes mentioned in the last blog, take note of the alternatives that speak life and hope to abuse victims. 

Instead of… Try this

“Time will heal”   “Are you safe? Do you need a place to stay?”    

“It could be worse.”   “I’ve no idea what this must be like for you.  All abuse destroys. It makes sense you are trying to find help.” 

“It’s not about marrying the right person, it’s about being the right person.”   “It is never your fault when your spouse is abusive. He (she) decides what kind of person to be just as we all do.”

 “Jesus said to forgive 70 times 70.”    “Standing up for yourself is appropriate.  Jesus loved, forgave, and still held people accountable. That’s the example he set.”  

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”   “I’m glad you told me. Is there anyone else you’d like me to call?”  

“Just give it to God” “Pray harder.”   “You are not alone. I will pray for you. Meanwhile, God will lead us to wise counsel and I’ll help you get there.”

 “If you respect him, he will love you.”  “You are not the end-all to your abuser’s happiness or unhappiness. No one has the power to change another person. There is nothing you can do to make him (her) feel one or the other.”   

“God hates divorce.”  “God loves you. He will show you the best pathway for your life.”

“There are two sides to every story.”  “It’s important that you be heard and know you are heard.” 

“All couples have problems.”  “You need to know your spouse is not loving you regardless his (her) words. Love does no harm to its neighbor. Abuse escalates. Marriage counseling will  not help unless the abuse stops.”   

“Let the past stay in the past.”  “It makes sense you are afraid of it happening again.  I can help you find a shelter or professional help.”  Or,  “I’ll go with you to the police.” 

“God can save any marriage”  ie:  “God can change anyone.”   “God leads change in humble hearts, not hard and closed ones. Let God deal with the abuser. It’s time to take care of the person God created you to be.”   

 Today’s Helpful Word

2 Kings 20: 5

“I have heard your prayer and seen your tears;  I will heal you.” – God 

 

******COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here
If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. (international emergency numbers) or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

Platitude Cemetary: For Unhelpful Comments Said to Abuse Victims

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

While abusers and abuse victims have some predictable commonalities with others who share their positions,  healthy responses are unique to each person.

Abuse is in a separate class from normal relational conflict.  Platitudes take a one-size-fits-all-problems approach.    

Platitudes are not harmless

The worst platitudes are those who send an abuser’s target back into the abusive relationship.  Even so-called innocent platitudes can encourage a victim to retreat into the shadows.  

Apathy, feeling helpless to change anything,  and false beliefs create platitudes. Good-hearted folks say them, uselessly trying to help.  Here are several that may sound familiar, and the good reasons to not repeat them anymore. 

12 platitudes to bury for good

“Time will heal.”   No, it won’t. Unless one escapes the abuse, time does not help.  The only way to recover from abuse is to stop it. After one escapes, becoming whole again requires more than time.

“It could be worse.”    This is a subjective statement.  It’s dismissive and unhelpful.  People in pain have substantial reason to care about their struggles and no need to invalidate the experiences as if they, as humans, do not matter. 

“It’s not about marrying the right person, it’s about being the right person.”   An abuser’s target already tries to “be the right person” to the point of losing herself, and sometimes her life.  

“Jesus said forgive 70 times 70.”    Forgiveness and trust are not the same animal.  We can forgive and say ‘no more’ at the same time.  John 8:58-59  John 2:23-25

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”   We better speak up! Otherwise we become enablers and help protect the abuser. 

“Just give it to God” or “Pray harder.”   “Just” is a word of dismissal. It says the victim is spiritually weak, and has no real cause to continue suffering. Besides, prayer is not a matter of begging. God hears us the first time.  Matthew 6:6-8

 “If you respect him, he will love you.”   Nah, he won’t.  Abuse is all about power and control.   

“God hates divorce.”  He also hates abuse, lying, slander, adultery, bragging, pride, and insolence. He loves the abused, brokenhearted, contrite, and troubled. He tells us to practice justice and help the oppressed.  Proverbs 6:16-19   Romans 1:28-32   Psalm 9:8-10

“There are two sides to every story.”  Everyone has their version, yes. The narcissist will see his/her entitlement, and fault the victim whether true or not.  The abuser’s side of the story is often a mix of regret, promises to change, tears of remorse,  even prayer and submission to counseling. Missing are repentance, lasting change, deep understanding of the problem,  a blame-the-victim ceasefire,  and honest confession.  

“All couples have problems.”  Yes and no. All couples have times of disappointment, maybe even years of it. Not all couples have an abuser in the mix. This is beyond “couple problems.”  It is an abuser problem.  

“Let the past stay in the past.”  The past is often all an abuse victim has to present his/her case, to seek justice, or find needed help. Even more so, the past shows us patterns. These can lead to better awareness for the victim and others. 

“God can save any marriage”  ie:  “God can change anyone.”   When a narcissist will not see his/her sin and is unwilling to change (despite words to the contrary), God will not force  his salvation or Spirit on them.  1 John 1:8-9    Matthew 18: 17 

The next blog will offer options to these platitudes to arm you with truthful and effective responses. Stay tuned! 

Today’s Helpful Word

Ephesians  4: 29

Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.

 

******COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.
Most of these platitudes were borrowed from readers of https://cryingoutforjustice.com

How the Best Supports Can Help You With Depression and Anxiety

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

One week after exiting the hospital for a major  depressive episode,  anxiety grew to irrational caution.  It was 2005, and I waited outside a familiar door in my church,  afraid of familiar people.  Finally, loneliness trumped fear.

As one woman walked by to enter the foreboding room,  I whispered.  At  first, she  did  not hear.

“Marge.” I said her name a second time.

“Nancy? What did you say?” She came closer.

 “If I come in there, may I sit in the back? I don’t think I can face everyone…”  A mouse-like voice returned. 

The tone of her voice grew my confidence. “Nancy, just come and be with us. You can sit wherever  you like.” 

Such acceptance and love.

My behavior was abnormal in general, and maybe especially for me, as typically friendliness and smiles portray my greetings. Marge may have thought it best to leave me alone. By speaking out my needs, her graciousness could calm some of  my fears.

The other option was to sit in the hall. 

Telling people our precise needs is the most effective way of reaching out.  It is difficult to answer when family and friends ask,  “What can I do for you?” We might feel it is selfish to ask for much, or too risky.  Would-be-supports are sometimes afraid. They often do not know how to help or are concerned they might worsen a situation.. 

Keeping a list nearby with ideas such as , “I need non-critical acceptance” and “I need someone to sit with me.” gives them solid  information. Both you and they will feel relief.

Demanding is different from informing others of our needs. Demand shows up in our tone of voice,  expectations, and negative reactions when disappointed.  

About therapists involved in my care, I added to my journal:  “Truth  is, it is God who will get me through  life victoriously, not happily all the time.. People he has brought to help in the happiness department will sometimes let me down. This does not mean I should write them off.”

What then do the best supports look like? They exercise boundaries, and believe for us through better and not-so great circumstances.  (This does not mean they approve of  all we do!) They trust God’s process, and do not try to control the situation.

They are safe, do not abuse or take advantage in any way, and try to meet us where we are. They listen to what we say instead of assuming, proactively trying to grasp our meanings by asking good questions. They know if understanding and the ability to relate is elusive, they can continue to be  supportive. 

The best supports are human, and never perfect at any of the above. 

We can choose to help them help us. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 16:24 

Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

Free Indeed

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Freedom is the resounding word in the U.S.A. this week.  Freedom means choice.  Without choices, no one is free.

Of course, our American government makes laws with which some of us disagree.  Citizens cannot make choices outside the law.  Murderous attacks like the one at a newspaper company a few days ago happen when people ignore the law.  That is anarchy.  Anarchy leaves no one free.

Freedom 

Freedom is not absence of absolutes. It is the ability to choose what, and whom to believe.

I started working for a locally headquartered non-profit earlier this year. This corporation’s mission is to teach Christian principles of faith to the public-at-large.  Within the laws of freedom in this country is the right to free speech.  The Wisdom of God Corp. wants to talk about our concept of God. 

The first billboard goes up for one month beginning tomorrow.  The website offers compelling and gentle answers to heavy questions such as, “Who is God?” and “Are questions of morality answerable without existence of a spiritual world?” 

As for idealism, the billboard says someone is offering true freedom.  Who is doing the promising?  What does “Free Indeed” mean?

Jesus said it

Too often, Jesus is misquoted, misrepresented, and shoved into a cloud of mystery.  His message was quite simple and clear.

He said he is God’s Son:  John 10:36  “Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?…” 

John 10:24,25  “‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’  Jesus answered,  ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe.'”

We are free to choose between believing Jesus or those who argue he was merely a man.

He said he is the way to God:  John 14: 6,7 “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.'”

We are free to repent and enjoy  the relationship we can have with God because of the  death and resurrection of His Son.

He promised peace in a divisive world:  John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We are free to trust in the unfailing character of a good God,  or to return to temporary “solutions” that fail us repeatedly. 

He promised to come back and take believers with him: John 14:1  “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me… I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. “

We are free to choose where to place our hope – in the here and now, in fallible people, or in the promises of eternal life with Jesus. 

Freedom means choices.  Free Indeed is the guarantee that comes with choosing  Christ Jesus, the Savior and redeemer of our souls.  

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

Love, Circumstances, Regret, Eternity: 4 Contexts Where Accepting Life on Life’s Terms Changes Everything

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

What’s sadly amusing is that people (let’s be honest, it is each of us) who need to learn life lessons often do not believe they have a problem.

I heard a notorious complainer and backbiter announce that she had once attended a conference on negativity.  One man struggled with coping and  refused therapy. He had never entered a professional mental healthcare office, yet claimed it would not help.

Accepting life on life’s terms is tricky. Instead, we often try to control circumstances or other people, and strive for comfort.   

Personal Power

Reputations, health, and safety are subject to events outside our control. No matter the wisdom or lack of sense behind our choices, good  and not-so-good will result. Jesus said God sends rain on the just and on the unjust*.  Life’s terms are reality.

Nonetheless, we have control over our behavior and responses. That is powerful!

I switched from railing against difficulties and fighting to improve the past, to focusing on changing me. Now a matured worldview, attitude, and belief system provide a deep sense of hope and purpose that eluded me before.

Do you see how far you’ve come since one to ten years ago? Change happens in truth. Honest introspection is not difficult. Simply by asking, “Why do I feel/believe/behave this way? Am I the person I want to be?”,  your escape from endless cycles begins. 

Life’s terms 

Relationships:   No human loves unconditionally and no one stays forever. These are not true because people are uncaring, rather it is that we are fallible, and incapable of perfectly meeting another’s needs. These are life’s terms.

Accepting these terms allows for rejoicing at how many people care sincerely and imperfectly.  Shared happiness and pain create a sense of community and personal fulfillment. This replaces the anguish of manipulating or insisting relationships match our design. Grace and freedom reign.

Circumstances:  Events outside ourselves are often confusing and seem to have trajectories of their own. It is impossible to slam on the brakes and stop all the nonsense. These are life’s terms. 

Accepting life’s terms means no set of circumstances has to complete our story. Looking for  options and focusing on what is next, spares us from paralyzing fear and hopelessness. We can create, share ideas, pray, and involve ourselves in a message of hope.   

Personal history:  The past is full of regrets and “can’t believe I did that”.  Consequences of poorer choices are not always avoidable. These are life’s terms. 

Accepting those terms allows us to make needed amends, and jumpstart the present.  How many of us would spend days hiding if we constantly stared at all our mistakes? Knowing the past cannot be fixed, we transfer energy toward influencing today for the good of humankind. 

Salvation:  No past choices determine our eternal future. Zero.  Starting now, putting faith in Jesus means we can believe our gifts, strengths, and weaknesses have purpose in the hands of a sovereign God. He sees his beloved (if somewhat confused) children through eyes of forgiveness and delight.

These are His terms, for which we can feel relief and gladness. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 19:21 

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,  but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+5&version=ESV

“In Your Religion, Doesn’t God Love You? How Can You Feel Anxious or Depressed?” A Doctor’s Remark Addressed

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Twenty years ago, a doctor asked routinely if I felt depressed or anxious. One day I said, “Yes.”

She looked surprised and said, “In your religion, doesn’t your God love you? How can you feel anxious or depressed?”

She is not the only medical professional to dismiss mental health issues as matters of choice. One refused to treat me at all.

She is also not the first person to use lack of faith as the assumed cause of uncomfortable emotions.

The word anxious makes some people blame, scold, assume the worst of, or dismiss a person who admits to it.  We are told to not feel whatever we feel, that there’s no reason for it.

What if there is a reason?

Healthy plans include looking at why our feelings are strong. Emotions will teach us if we stop to ask questions of them and listen.  Awareness is the first step toward solutions. (You will find the difference between DISORDER and typical stress or mood explained below this post.)

St. Paul was a preacher in the years immediately following the death and resurrection of Christ.  God gave him several brag-worthy visions.  In the New Testament, we read that Paul learned the reason behind one of his many struggles. He came right out and said that God sent him a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble.

Would anyone today walk up to Paul and tell him his weakness was lack of faith?

If he had denied this difficulty,  toughed it out in his own strength, he would not have practiced his faith by asking God for help. He would not have understood the point. He would never have written:

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Emotional Safety

Although the specific challenge Paul faced is not named,  we do know he felt fears and anxiety.*  Anxiety under a compilation of difficult circumstances is normal. Why cannot we admit, “I’m feeling anxious” without a hurricane of  shouldn’t blowing us away?

It behooves us to discuss emotions without judgment. Through non-critical acceptance, we protect emotional safety. This in turn allows each person to consider options such as self-care and perhaps professional help as needed. How important it is to know we can approach God for help without guilt stopping us!

As a follower of Christ,  and one who knows God loves her, I believe  God walks with me through emotions and teaches me when I ask.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.
*********OTHER NOTES
DISORDERS are characterized by their duration and intensity.  They present a challenge to regular functioning over longer periods of time.Anxiety Disorder has more extreme symptoms than the type of anxiety everyone feels before a driving test or meeting a significant other’s parents. Mood Disorders are more than the blues and mood swings people feel with the change of weather.  Sometimes it is difficult for a person with a disorder to find any cause.

*Paul and anxiety

  • Philippians 2:27-29  I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.
  • 2 Corinthians 2:12-13Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me,I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. 
  • Ephesians 6:20  Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. 
  • 2 Corinthians 7:5  For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within.

No Matter Your Ideas On Immigration, We Must Care About Children

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

PTSD. Those affected by Post-traumatic Stress Disorder come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.

Even the very young need help to overcome emotional and biological scars from sudden, uncontrollable loss and fear. 

What you may not know is PTSD is not a catch-all to describe the effects of trauma in children.  Information in news reports is often incomplete or misinformed. If you want to know what it is actually like for many of these children, I recommend you read this or this or this.

It’s about the kids

You may or may not like U.S. immigration policies. Asylum, human trafficking, drug smuggling, family rights, and vetting are each serious issues deserving thoughtful consideration and debate.  We can agree to care about the children, right?

Many citizens of the world cry for an open-door policy. Other citizens of the world believe walls and zero-tolerance for illegal entry are the solution to more egregious evil.  Desperate refugees of war and crime need hope and protection.  Wicked people exploit desperation for their own gain.

We have to care about and protect the children.

The recent  wave in the U.S. of outrage and sympathy for children and adolescents caught between their parents, politics, and immigration  law is a sign, I hope.  Maybe some hearts are now stirred by children’s issues in general.

In the U.S.A.

  • Children are sold as sexual tools
  • Children’s Services Departments are overcrowded and underfunded
  • Suicide has moved up from the number 3 to number 2 cause of death for children age 10 and older.
  • Bullying, violence, disparity between quality of schools, medical care – all these are children’s issues we can choose as our national and personal focus.

A woman said to me yesterday, “There is nothing I can do, so I just do not watch the news. It is too distressing.”  We need to know what to do beyond railing against each other with political rhetoric.

Proactive ways to help 

  1. Write to your legislators. America is is not a democracy. It is a republic which means we are allowed to tell those in power what we will and will not endorse with our votes.
  2. Vote
  3. Financially support those institutions and organizations that are fighting against child exploitation, suicide, and any of the other issues.
  4. Volunteer hours with ministries or child advocacy groups that directly address these issues
  5. Teach your children to use their voices. They too can call and write to legislators.
  6. Be a foster parent to refugee or other children in distress

If we are going to use quotes from scripture to guide our decisions, then we do well to remember Today’s Helpful Word.  Jesus loves the little children. We need to care about that in more ways than one.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

 

Cook, A., Blaustein, M., Spinazzola, J, & van der Kolk, B. (Eds.) (2007). Complex
trauma in children and adolescents. National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Retrieved from http://www.nctsnet.org/nccts/nav.do?pid=typ_ct

 

 

 

 

 

If Dad’s Love Falls Short: 3 Ways to Move Beyond the Pain

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

A narcissist dad thought it was everyone else’s responsibility to reach out to him. If friends or family did not,  it was their loss.

One child’s personality allowed him to take initiative and make compromises trying to find a relationship with his father. Another child was an introvert, and did not understand his father’s rules.

The first child received some attention. It was especially apparent in public because that is where narcissist’s shine. The other child was almost completely ignored except when his dad yelled at him for daring to cause an inconvenience.

This dad’s behavior was not faithfulness. This is not what love looks like.

Yet many of us have experienced fathers like this and much worse. The picture of love ingrained in our thoughts since childhood is drawn of betrayal, broken promises,  and neglect. Our fathers left us empty, angry, and lost.

Love is…

Kelly Clarkson sings a song to her dad who abandoned her when she was six.  Her lyrics compare him to the father of her children. *

He never walks away
He never asks for money
He takes care of me
He loves me
Piece by piece, he restores my faith
That a man can be kind and the father could, stay

These words remind me that behind every negative message from a faithless dad, there exists a basic truth. We are each worthy of a better love. No one can decide differently. If they try, we do not have to believe them.

Exchange false for true

The trick to changing negative core beliefs is to replace them. We will not overcome habitual thought processes by trying to ‘get over it.’ Our power is in switching to a new narrative.

  1. Stop the abuse. If you are an adult and your dad is still toxic, find a way to  draw boundaries and stand by them. Talk to him about the situation. Explain what words or behaviors are deal-breakers.  You decide how often or if you meet, and how long you stay in the same room. He threw away his authority.  You have the human right to emotional safety.
  2. Challenge your self-talk. Ask why you repeat self-defeating cycles. What can you do differently? Pay attention to what language goes through your mind. If you think (or start to say) “I’m a loser,” exchange the phrase for something positive whether you believe it yet or not. For example,  “I’m a fighter” points out how you continue to try.
  3. Reach out to the Father of Fathers. God promises to never abandon us, no matter what our parents do. He is good, faithful, and full of love for those who trust him. He made it possible, no matter how messed-up we are, to come to him. The way God designed is through his Son Jesus.  The New Testament (Bible) states plainly that by believing God sent his one and only Son to die and rise again,  we can ask for and find forgiveness and peace.

Instead of “I am abandoned,” try, “God loves me.” Take in positive truth and watch your pain recede.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*Piece By Piece

 

What Do You Want, Positive Thinking or Positive Change? Know the Significant Difference. Part 2

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

When positive thinking is denial’s cousin, it is not helpful.

Denial is believing your spouse means  “I love you,” while treating you like dirt. Denial is unnecessarily gaining weight and telling yourself you are still healthy. Denial points out another’s mistake, the same mistake you have made a dozen times. 

Rain is real  

Members of a depression support group,  many of us fresh out of the hospital,  watched as gray merged with silver droplets, creating a panel of sleet over the window.  Someone complained about the weather.

The therapist’s response sounded confusing.  He said, “Look for the positives.”

I asked, “What’s the difference between denial and looking for the positives?” 

“Denial is saying, ‘there is no rain’,”  he said. “Looking for positives accepts the rain,  then deliberately chooses to focus on what is going well.”

Is,  as in “is going well,”  drove the point.  He did not use wish or claim.  Instead, he suggested hope for change comes from noticing what is positive about reality.  

Later he said, “I’m not telling you to just think positive.  I’m not that guy.” 

Rain is wet

Positive thinking tries to convince us the rain is meaningless. Perhaps one admits to the storm, yet summarily dismisses it with, “it’s not wet!”  

Children’s  the-little-train-that-could had positive thoughts. “I think I can, I think I can” motivated it to chug its way over a mountain.  If that little train did not have wheels, no amount of positive thinking was going to carry it. 

Positive thinking is different from positive change in that it has no inherent honesty. Trying to pump up a languishing spirit by embracing fantasy is a temporary feel-good solution at best. 

Denial’s cousin

While denial calls addiction a bad habit,  positive thinking recognizes addiction and tries to wish away the consequences.  Denial says “I’m ok” when nothing is ok. Positive thinking  says, “I’m not ok,  but everything will be perfect tomorrow!”  

Certain times may call for rah-rahs for rah-rahs’ sake. However, there is more power in truth. It is amazing what we can face and accomplish in the realm of our mental health if what we genuinely want is positive change. 

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.